By David DeCamp / Antiwar.com Blog
On Wednesday, President Biden authorized a new $800 million weapons package for Ukraine that includes howitzers and helicopters. The announcement was made after Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who continues to plead for more arms.
The weapons package includes 18 155mm howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds, marking the first transfer of US artillery systems to Ukraine. The Ukrainians will receive 11 Mi-17 helicopters that were originally earmarked for the now-defunct US-backed Afghan government.
The new package brings the total US military aid pledged to Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24 to over $2.5 billion. The announcement came after the US and its NATO allies agreed to start providing the Ukrainians with heavier equipment.
The weapons package also includes 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 300 armed Switchblade drones, 200 armored personnel carriers, 10 counter-artillery radars, and two surveillance radars. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Ukraine’s forces will need to be trained to use some of the equipment.
It’s not clear where the US training of Ukrainian forces will happen. President Biden recently said US troops would be training Ukrainian forces in Poland, but the Pentagon later downplayed the comments, saying the US was only “liaising” with Ukrainian troops while giving them weapons.
Lithuania is a possible venue for the training as the Baltic state announcedthis week that it plans to train Ukrainian troops on its territory. The Pentagon revealed on Sunday that it has been training Ukrainian troops that were inside the US before Russia launched its invasion.
The Ukrainian forces were taking a naval course at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School in Biloxi, Mississippi. After the class concluded at the end of March, the Ukrainian soldiers received some training on weapons the US has provided Ukraine, including armed Switchblade drones. According to the Pentagon, the Ukrainians are now headed back to Ukraine.